Smaller crowds mean few lines to be found in Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter

in Theme Parks, Universal Orlando

In the world created by author J.K. Rowling, September 1 is the annual first school day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as the Sorting Hat places new students into their proper houses and Harry Potter and the gang find new mischief to get themselves into. For myself and my wife, it seemed like the perfect date to return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure to not only visit Hogwarts, but also get an update on the current crowd levels around the popular theme park addition.

Since the seemingly endless line formed for the Wizarding World’s June 18 grand opening, large crowds have flocked to the area each day throughout the summer, with queues set up to experience not only the biggest new attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but also to get into the stores. But now that the school year has begun (real-life school, not just at Hogwarts), crowds have dwindled down to a level not seen since the soft opening in May.

But with lesser crowds comes shorter park hours. Yesterday and throughout this week, Islands of Adventure closes at 8 p.m., allowing guests to spend only short time inside the beautiful Wizarding World at night. Beginning next week, the park closes at 7 p.m. followed by closings as early as 6 p.m. on weekdays for the final two weeks of September. While the shops inside the Wizarding World do remain open past closing (Universal isn’t one to turn down money), guests must be inside the park before park hours end for the day, making casual after-work visits to the Wizarding World nearly impossible for locals in the coming weeks.

But I’ll gladly trade shorter park hours and smaller crowds for the elbow-to-elbow madness that has consumed the Wizarding World throughout the months since its grand opening.

Here’s a glimpse of the comfortable crowd levels that can now be found throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (along with a few other fun shots):

Manageable crowds in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Upon entering the Wizarding World, crowds were noticeably lighter, but it still appeared to be crowded...
No line for the Butterbeer cart
...until we reached the Butterbeer cart, where there was no line! I haven't seen that since May.
No line for Butterbeer in the Hog's Head Pub
Since it was late in the day, the outdoor Butterbeer cart was out of the frozen version, so we went inside the Hog's Head Pub. Again - no line!

Frozen Butterbeer at the Hog's Head Pub
Smaller crowds allow me to have more time to take fun pictures, like this one.

Nearly empty Three Broomsticks restaurant
Turning around, the Three Broomsticks restaurant was equally empty. It was dinner time, around 7 p.m. at this point, and only a few tables were occupied.

The Three Broomsticks inside the Three Broomsticks restaurant
Michelle pointed out the restaurant's namesake Three Broomsticks hanging between the Hog's Head Pub and the main dining area. Somehow, I never noticed them before. Perhaps it was due to the previously-large crowds!
No line to get inside Honeydukes or Zonko's
Gone are the days of waiting in line outside to enter Honeydukes or Zonko's Joke Shop. Now you just walk right in.
Empty Honeydukes
Inside Honeydukes, fighting for breathing room is a thing of the past, at least for now. Empty aisles mean browsing candy with ease.
Empty Honeydukes
Nothing but comfortable, empty space to enjoy a stroll through the store.
Honeydukes decorations
Again, the lack of other people around afforded me the time to take this interesting picture looking outward on one of Honeydukes window displays.
Empty Zonko's
The connected Zonko's Joke Shop was equally as empty.
Pigmy Puffs
Pygmy Puffs continue to populate store shelves.
Felix Felicis (Liquid Luck) t-shirt - $24.95
We couldn't resist buying this new Felix Felicis (Liquid Luck) t-shirt inside Zonko's. $24.95.
Short line for Ollivander's
The line for Ollivander's Wand Shop was only a handful of people long, down from the winding queues that have prevented me from enjoying this experience all summer.
She was chosen in Ollivander's Wand Shop
It was great to see the wand choose a guest, once again. It's still an entertaining mini-show and has been slightly different every time I've seen it.
Nearly empty path to Hogwarts
The path to Hogwarts Castle was relatively empty.
The Sorting Hat sorted me inside Hogwarts
As I wrote above, it was September 1, the first day of school at Hogwarts, so the Sorting Hat hopped on my head to do what he does best...
I was sorted into Slytherin
...and I was sorted into Slytherin.
The Sorting Hat sorts Michelle at Hogwarts
Then the Sorting Hat jumped onto my wife Michelle's head...
Michelle was sorted into Ravenclaw
...placing her into Ravenclaw. She really wanted to join the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic instead.
Beauxbatons women's shirt - $28.95
Fortunately this new Beauxbatons women's shirt is available in Dervish and Banges ($28.95). There's also a Durmstrang guys' t-shirt.
Time Turner keychain - $10.95
Many have asked about the availability of Time Turners in the Wizarding World. While they still don't have a necklace available, this new Time Turner keychain is now for sale in Filch's Emporium for $10.95. Yes, it has real sand that moves inside the hourglass.
Hogwarts house 4-pack sock set - $24.95
Also spotted (and purchased by Michelle) within Filch's Emporium was this set of four Hogwarts house socks for $24.95.
Uncrowded Hogsmeade Village
As night falls, the Wizarding World lights up and crowds diminish even further.
Uncrowded Hogsmeade Village
Guests can remain inside the Wizarding World, shopping and enjoying the ambience, for quite a while after park closing. It's a helpful tip when the park closes early in the coming weeks.

While large crowds indicate that a theme park is doing well, it’s always nice when those crowds thin out, enabling visits to be much more enjoyable. Yesterday’s short trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was one I had been longing for since its June 18 grand opening. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey had a posted wait time of just 20 minutes, but upon walking through the queue, it was more like 5-10. As with any other Orlando area theme park, now is the best time to take in all the detail found within the Wizarding World, before the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas seasons draw new large crowds.

Photo slideshow from yesterday’s visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:

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